Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld games console has only been out for three weeks in Japan, but its sales figures are already giving cause for concern. Following an initially strong opening week, in which 324,859 units were sold, the console shifted only 72,479 units in second week, and has followed that up with third week sales of just 42,648 units.

The PS Vita is seen by many industry figures as a risk for Sony, given the strong competition from smart phones, tablet devices and associated casual gaming. Sony has stood by its device however, with Andrew House, President of Sony Computer Entertainment saying it offers a “truly unique gaming experience” that will attract both hardcore and more casual gamers.

To put those sales figures into context, the PS Vita is currently being outperformed by the PSP, the device it is meant to be succeeding. Sony has not commented on speculation that the Vita may receive a price cut, a tactic which Nintendo used to good effect last year, to boost disappointing sales of its 3DS console.

When the Vita arrives in the U.S. on February 22, it will cost $249 for the Wi-Fi only model, and $299 for the combined 3G/WiFi model. The 3DS originally cost $249 at launch, but this was slashed to $169 in August last year. The post-price cut 3DS now finds itself sitting pretty on top of the Japanese hardware charts, outselling all the Sony consoles combined.

The full weekly Japanese hardware sales figures, for December 26 through January 1, read as follows (with last week’s figures in brackets):

  • 1. 3DS: 197,952 (482,200)
  • 2. PS3: 67,199 (75,943)
  • 3. PSP: 62,746 (101,121)
  • 4. PSV: 42,648 (72,479)
  • 5. Wii: 33,208 (91,176)
  • 6. DSi LL: 3,356 (8,470)
  • 7. X360: 2,453 (4,245)
  • 8. DSi: 2,418 (5,894)
  • 9. PS2: 1,659 (1,582)
  • 10. DS Lite: 28 (32)

It will be interesting to see whether Sony addresses these disappointing sales figures, or the pricing structure for US and EU launch of the Vita, at the Consumer Electronics Show next week. Dean and Sebastian will be on hand to report back if they do.

In the meantime, will the 28 Japanese gamers who bought a DS Lite last week please raise a hand?